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Full text of "Virginia Wildlife"

IRGINIA 



JANUARY 2012 



FOUR DOLLARS 



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IY 2012 CONTENTS 




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The New Faces of Trapping 

by Ken Perrotte 

From trap setting to hide stretching, these 
ive moved scpiareh intotheworid 



women 
offurbearers. 



A Not So W ild Goose Chase 
by Curtis Badger 

Onatinj island in the Canadian \ntie. snow 
geese congregate before making a phenomenal 
migration to\ irginia's Eastern Shore. 



Hunting On The \\ ing 

by Marie Majarov 

The ancient sport of falconrj is still verj much 

alive, rewarding both raptor and human in a 

unique hunting partnership. 



Bringing Back A River 

h\ Bruce Ingrain 

Natural resource agencies and the town of 

Pennington ( lap have set their sights on an 

ambitious restoration project 



A Bugle In The Night 

In ( lharlie Petrocci 

\eross the baj in the marshy low lands ofthe 

Chincoteague NationalW ildlife Refuge, a 

differenl form of deer hunting takes place. 



28 AFIELD AND AFLOAT 

30 Whitetail Biologj • 32 Off the Leash 

33 Photo Tips • 34 Dining In 

ABOUT THE COVER: Red-tailed hawk. Storj on page 16. i Marie Majaiw 




BOB DUNCAN 
Executive Director 



The arrival of 20 1 2 presents an opportunity to share with you an 
important milestone: 75 years of conservation work dedicated 
to wildlife across this great country, first made possible by the Federal 
Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. That legislation, passed in 1 937, fos- 
tered partnerships between federal and state fish and wildlife agencies, 
the sporting arms industry, hunters, shooters, anglers, and conserva- 
tion groups, and has been key to implementing the North American 
Model ofWildlife Conservation. 

Instrumental to the terms and passage of the bill was former 
chairman of our board, A. Willis Robertson, who served our agency 
between 1926 and 1933. A protege of renowned conservationist Aldo 
Leopold, Robertson had both a keen intellect and unique insight 
about the condition of game populations in Virginia. The intent of 
this national legislation was both bold and visionary, and its passage 
during a period of austerity with little to celebrate in the public arena, 
that much more remarkable. That this bill to establish a reliable fund 
for states to conduct wildlife research and habitat restoration has with- 
stood the test of time can be attributed to the following insertion, 
scribbled quickly on a scrap of notepaper, as the story is told, by 
Robertsons hand: "... and which shall include a prohibition against 
the diversion of license fees paid by hunters for any other purpose than 
the administration of said state fish and game department." 

Ah, the magic of those 29 words which have had an enduring, 
profoundly positive impact on wildlife in this country! 

Thirteen years later, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration 
Act (now the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act) was passed. 
Together, what has become the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration 
program has contributed more than $12 billion to fish and wildlife 
conservation in the U.S. — through a self-imposed excise tax paid by 
manufacturers and users of outdoors gear, a motorboat fuel tax, and 
the purchase of hunting and fishing licenses. Here in Virginia, federal 
aid has enabled countless game and fisheries projects to come to 
fruition, from the early stocking of deer and wild turkeys in counties 
where their numbers were faltering, to the purchase and management 
of more than 200,000 acres of dedicated wildlife management areas, 
to the recent restoration of the Coursey Springs Fish Hatchery in Bath 
County — our largest trout-rearing station, key to stocking efforts 
across the state. 

In celebtating the success of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restora- 
tion program, we also acknowledge the meaningful public and private 
partnerships that, together, conserve and manage fish and wildlife. 
The benefits of these partnerships are enjoyed by sportsmen and 
sportswomen and by all who appreciate wildlife, myself included. 

Those who know me say that I have been "a long time coming" 
to celebrating successes throughout my professional career. And look- 
ing back, I will admit to the truth of that statement. Perhaps that is 
why, with the wisdom of age, I am delighted and honored to take note 
of this significant milestone for a program that has benefitted so many 
species and served all of us so well. 

With your support, the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration pro- 
gram will continue to conserve habitat for game and fish and create 
wildlife-related recreational opportunities well into the future. On be- 
half of our agency and the mission that guides us, I thank you. 



MISSION STATEMENT 

To manage Virginia's wildlife and inland fish to maintain optimum populations of all species to serve the needs of the Commonwealth; To 
opportunity for all to enjoy wildlife, inland fish, boating and related outdoor recreation and to work diligently to safeguard the rights 
of the people to hunt, fish and harvest game as provided for in the Constitution ol Virginia; To promote safety for persons and property in 
connection with boating, hunting and fishing; To provide educational outreach programs and materials that foster an awareness of and appre- 
ciation for Virginia's fish and wildlife resources, their habitats, and hunting, fishing, and boating opportunities. 

Dedicated to the Conservation of Virginia's Wildlife and Natural Resources 
VOLUME 73 NUMBER I 




www.wsfr75.com 




COMMONWEALTH OF YIRGINM 

Bob McDonnell, Governor 

HUNTING & FISHING 
LICENSE FEES 

Subsidized this publication 

SECRETARY OF NATURAL RESOURCES 
Douglas W. Domenech 

DEPARTMENT OF GAME AND 

INLAND FISHERIES 

Bob Duncan 

Executive Director 

MEMBERS OF THE BOARD 

Lisa Caruso, Church Road 
J. Brent Clarke, III, Great Falls 
Curtis D. Colgate, Virginia Beach 
James W. Hazel, Oakton 
Randy J. Kozuch, Alexandria 
Mary Louisa Pollard, Irvington 
F. Scott Reed, Jr., Manakin-Sabot 
Leon O. Turner, Fincastle 
Charles S. Yates, Cleveland 

MAGAZINE STAFF 

Sally Mills, Editor 

Lee Walker, Ron Messina, Julia Dixon, 

Contributing Editors 
Emily Pels, Art Director 
Carol Kushlak, Production Manager 
Matt Knox, Staff Contributor 

Printing by Progress Printing, Lynchburg, VA. 

Virginia Wildlife (ISSN 0042 6792) is published month! 
by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 
Send all subscription orders and address changes to Virgin! 
Wildlife, P. O. Box 830, Boone, Iowa 50036. Address a 
other communications concerning this publication to Vii 
ginia Wildlife, P. O. Box 1 1 104, 4010 West Broad Stree 
Richmond, Virginia 23230-1104. Subscription rates a 
$12.95 for one year, $23.95 for two years; S4.00 per cad 
back issue, subject to availability. Out-of-country rate i 
$24.95 for one year and must be paid in U.S. funds. No R 
funds for amounts less than $5.00. To subscribe, call toll 
free (800) 710-9369. POSTMASTER: Please send a! 
address changes to Virginia Wildlife, P.O. Box 830, Boon 
Iowa 50036. Postage for periodicals paid at Richmond, Vu 
ginia and additional entry offices. 

Copyright 2012 by the Virginia Department of Game am 
Inland Fisheries. All rights reserved. 

The Department of Game and Inland Fisheries shall aflbr 
to all persons an equal access to Department programs an 
facilities without regard to race, color, religion, national ori 
gin, disability, sex, or age. If you believe that you have bee 
discriminated against in any program, activity or facilin 
please write to: Virginia Department ol Game and Inlao 
Fisheries, ATTN: Compliance Officer, (4010 West Broa 
Street.) P. O. Box 1 1 104, Richmond. Virginia 23230-11B 

This publication is intended for general informational ptB 
poses only and every effort has been made to ensure its a 
curacy. The information contained herein docs not serve a 
a legal representation offish and wildlife laws or regulation! 
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries do 
not assume responsibility for any change in dates, rcguh 
tions, or information that may occur aftct publication. 





1 

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While trapping may be on the decline 
throughout much of the country, 

some newcomers are broadening both 
the tradition and the stereotype. 



by Ken Perrotte 



Blanche Conley spread her 
arms as if walking a tightrope 
as she teetered along the nar- 
row, exposed top of a beaver dam in the chill- 
ing drizzle of a February morning. She wore a 
warm blaze orange jacket and cap and was 
snuggled into neoprene chest waders, but a 
slip and tumble into the pool to the upstream 
side of the dam would surely transition the 
morning from unpleasant to miserable. Min- 
utes earlier, she and friend Michael Meisberg- 
er had been thigh deep in the beaver swamp, 
resetting one of the many traps they had 
placed to try to catch the broad-tailed, buck- 
toothed busybodies. 

An hour west, amid the rolling hills of 
Orange County, 13-year-old Cierra Colvin 
watches in amazement as her mother, Lisa, 
deftly skins a large beaver trapped by her fa- 
ther. Lisa Colvin's personal record is just 




Blanche Conley removes a beaver hide from 
a stretching hoop. 



around six minutes to completely and care- 
fully skin a beaver. The Colvins live in Bar- 
boursville. While they trap in the winter to 
obtain fur for the market, Cierra and her 
mom spend many summer hours setting and 
checking traps as part of a nuisance animal 
control service business the family runs. 

"In the summer, we'll use two trucks. 
Steve will go one way to check traps and Cier- 
ra and I head the other way," she explained. 

Conley, Cierra, and Lisa are rarities — 
women that trap. 

Some trapping, such as for beaver and 
muskrat, can yield results beyond the sale of 
any fur. For example, managing beaver popu- 
lations is critical to preserving mixed habitat. 
Beavers can cause unwanted flooding of tim- 
ber stands, agricultural crops, and pastures, as 
well as damage to road systems. Muskrats can 
cause erosion problems in areas where a 
landowner may want to preserve a dam or 
levee. 

Predator species such as fox, raccoon, 
opossum, and skunk prey on cavity-nesting 
birds and their eggs as well as ground-nesters 
like quail and turkey. Studies have shown in- 
creased populations of popular game birds in 
areas where managed trapping takes place. 
Trapping also helps check the spread of ra- 
bies. 

An Air Force veteran, Ruther Glen resi- 
dent Conley met Navy veteran Meisberger on 
the train during their commute to work at 
Fort Belvoir. A relationship blossomed and 
Meisberger soon introduced Conley to deer 
hunting. 

"The first time I saw Michael gut a deer, I 
was fascinated. I was very curious about the 
animal s biology," Conley said. 

Conley began developing an interest in 




the outdoors during visits to her grandpar- 
ents' Kentucky farm, but never envisioned a 
day when she'd be in a "fur shed" until mid- 
night, scraping a muskrat hide. "I had only 
heard of muskrat in a song," she said with a 
laugh. 

Two years ago, a friend of Michael's son 
was getting involved in trapping and the 
more they heard, the more they became inter- 
ested. "We heard about the beginners trap- 
ping course sponsored by the Virginia 
Trappers Association (VTA). I said, 'Let's go 
see what this is all about,'" Conley explained. 

Lisa Colvin began trapping in 1994, 
"mainly because I married him," she said with 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 






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Michael Meisberger and Blanche Conley walk gingerly along a beaver dam after setting a trap. 





a nod to her husband, Steve, who was coordi- 
nating activities at the annual March fur-buy- 
ing auction in Fishersville. Steve is a 
4th-generation trapper and current president 
of the Virginia Trappers Association. Cierra, 
the Colvins' only child, embraced her par- 
ents' outdoor ways, not only trapping but 
hunting, enthusiastically. 

"I've shot a lot of deer, using a muzzle- 
loader, a crossbow, and I have a .243 and .30- 
06," she proudly announced. 

She admitted a .30-06 might be a little 
much, recoil-wise, for a slender young lady 
but added, "At the moment of the shot, you're 
so focused on making a good, clean shot and 



dropping that animal right there that you 
don't notice." 

An athlete, Cierra plays basketball and 
softball and has run track. "I'm an athlete, 
outdoors-type girl, but I like doing girl stuff, 
too, things like shopping and makeup," she 
admitted with a wry smile. 

Involved Process 

The women have no qualms about participat- 
ing in the full process, whether it's setting 
traps, dispatching and skinning die animals, 
or then fleshing and stretching the hides. 

"I'm inexperienced," Conley said. "It can 
take two to three hours just to do one animal. 



I hope to get the whole process down to about 
an hour." 

Getting more adept in the fur shed 
would help, especially on days when several 
traps are successful. Conley and Meisberger 
set 30 traps of varying types in several loca- 
tions, many of them in and around the water. 
It's not unusual to have a few days go by with- 
out a single animal being caught, but some 
successful days yield a bounty of otter, beaver, 
fox, and raccoon fur. Such productivity can 
leave them toiling in the skinning shed until 
well past midnight. 

Cierra said she didn't start skinning ani- 
mals until she was age ten but now confidently 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 




Skunk 
Wrangling 



Few things can inspire sensory imagi- 
nation like visualizing a beady-eyed, 
white-striped polecat lifting its tail in 
preparation of dousing you with a 
pungent liquid that'll leave you a so- 
cial pariah even in your own home. 
Yet, skunks are something Lisa Colvin 
and her daughter, Cierra, encounter 
frequently as they participate in the 
family's nuisance trapping business. 

"Summer is a big time for trap- 
ping groundhogs," Colvin explained, 
"but then there are skunks, always an 
adventure. 

"Some of them you can talk soft- 
ly to and just gently pick up the cage; 
others you have to cover [with a tarp 
or similar impervious wrap]. With 
others you just don't know what 
you're going to get. 

"There was one skunk that start- 
ed tapping his feet. Cierra took off 
running as the tail lifted. I wasn't so 
lucky and ended up taking the shot," 
Colvin said, with a mix of smile and 
grimace. 

Nuisance trapping can be a good 
way to earn some extra money, but 
there's no doubt that was one hard 
payday. 



Cierra Colvin, left, and Lauren Bedwell inspect pelts at the annual Virginia Trappers Association 
fur auction. 



boasts she can skin a beaver in 10 to 1 5 min- 
utes, depending on its size. Her dad still helps 
with the fleshing chores, a process where 
residual meat or fat is scraped away until the 
skin is clean. 

Once trapping season ends, the Colvins, 
Conley, and Meisberger bundle up the sea- 
son's reward of dried pelts and haul them to 
the VTAs fur auction. Fur trappers bringing 
pelts to a central sales point for grading and 
selling has a long tradition. Mountain man 
fur trappers of the wild Rocky Mountains 
used to haul their pelts to a summer "ren- 
dezvous." Compared to the one-day auctions 
of today, the gatherings of old were frequendy 
weeks-long events that featured all types of 
social activities for the often solitary trappers. 

Prime fur fetched prices ranging from 
$ 16 for raccoon, $48.50 for otter, and $26.50 
for beaver, to $2.75 for skunk at recent area 
auctions. 

Bounced against the hours and logistics 
associated with running a trapline for folks 
like Conley and Meisberger, it's easy to see 
why they say, "We're not in it for the money." 
Instead, Conley said her new trapping and 
hunting experiences help her reconnect to the 
outdoors. The skills she is learning feeds her 
sense of self-reliance. She values how willingly 
experienced trappers shared their knowledge. 

Art Foltz, VTA District 8 director, said 
Conley is a serious student of the game. "It's 



rare to find new trappers altogether, much less 
female trappers. I haven't had the opportunity 
to trap with Blanche and Michael. However, 
they attend all of our district meetings and are 
at front and center during our demonstra- 
tions. You can see and hear their enthusiasm 
during discussions. Often, during the season, 
they email me questions regarding their 
trapline and techniques," he said. 

"Trapping isn't rocket science," Foltz ad- 
mitted, "but has a steep learning curve for the 
uninitiated. A mentor can put them on track 
to catching animals quicker than book read- 




Trappers and prospective buyers evaluate furs 
brought to the annual March auction in 
Fishersville. 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 



ing and trial and error. The old days of not 
sharing trade secrets are long past. 

"Most of our district members enjoy 
helping new trappers get started," he added. 

What Do Friends Think? 

Conley said she doesn't talk much about her 
trapping activities with her fellow federal em- 
ployees, but it's the male associates who show 
the most interest when she does share her 
new-found interests. 

"My friends don't say much about it, es- 
pecially the girls," Cierra said. "Some say 
'Ewww,' but the guys think it's pretty cool that 
I like to do outdoors stuff like hunt and fish." 
Her young friend, Lauren Bedwell, ten, of 
Max Meadows in Wythe County, has been 
visiting traplines with her father, John Bed- 
well, since she was four. Lauren's father still 
helps her set traps and skin the animals, but 
she brought nearly 20 raccoons and three 
muskrats to the Fishersville fur auction. 

"I like going out and trapping and seeing 
the animals in their habitat," Lauren said, 
who has been a cheerleader but not engaged 
in any team sports yet. "I don't talk about it 
much with my friends, but they'd probably 
think it's nasty. They're girly-girls. I tell them 
it's fun and I do it because I like it," she added. 

"I enjoy seeing her excitement when 
we've made a catch, especially when it's in one 
of her traps," Bedwell said. "I really enjoy hav- 
ing her with me in the outdoors. It's quality 
time." 

Lisa Colvin noted, "I know in a few years 
she'll be gone to college, and our getting out 
working the traplines is a good opportunity 
to spend mother-daughter time together." 

She is confident Cierra will stay involved 
in trapping as she gets older. With obvious 
pride, she declared, "She's a natural, just like 
her dad." ?f 

Ken Perrotte is a King George County resident and 
the outdoors columnist for Fredericksburg's Free 
Lance-Star newspaper. 



RESOURCES 
To learn more about trapping, see: 
www.virginiatrappers.org 
Visit the Department's website, at: 
www.dgif.virginia.gov/hunting/regulations 




Blanche Conley invests many hours in the skinning shed at her Caroline County home. Animal 
hides are scraped clean of any flesh, stretched on various hoops, and then dried. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 



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Research turns up 

Virginias link 

with an Arctic island. 

by Curtis Badger 



reater snow goose number 
l 44CC had apparently made her- 
self at home. That was the con- 
clusion my wife Lynn and I reached after 
spending several days looking for banded 
snow geese at Chincoteague National 
Wildlife Refuge last fall. After we made four 
trips and logged in 22 different birds, this 
goose was the only one present and account- 
ed for on each occasion. She clearly had taken 
a liking to the shallow impoundment behind 
the beach, hanging out with others that, like 
her, had recently completed a trip from the 
Arctic and now were looking for a little R&R. 

Waterfowl hunters have for years been 
harvesting banded ducks and geese and re- 
porting the band numbers to government 
agencies. This helps biologists establish mi- 
gratory patterns, and consequently, provide 
resting and foraging opportunities for water- 
fowl as they move between breeding grounds 
in the north and winter homes along the 
coast. Many national wildlife refuges, includ- 
ing Chincoteague, were created primarily to 
provide migratory habitat for waterfowl. 

While banding reports no doubt helped 
biologists establish flyway patterns, there was 
one serious drawback. In pretty much every 
case, the band number came from a dead 
bird. The chances for a re-sighting, as with 
snow goose 44CC, were very slim. But mod- 
ern technology now makes it possible to 
record band numbers, report them, and have 
the bird move on to be spotted again; thus 
giving biologists the opportunity to track the 
movements of individual birds. 

It also gives amateurs like Lynn and me 
the opportunity to participate in a little citi- 
zen science. The snow geese are banded on 
their breeding grounds in the Arctic, and 
some of the females are fitted with a yellow 
neck collar in addition to the traditional 
metal leg band. The collar typically has a four- 
digit alpha-numeric code. Greater snow geese 

(cont.pg. 13) 




Female PC52 was found on Bylot Island, Nunavut 
Province, with newly hatched goslings. 




A flock of geese (moulting adults and goslings) are 
rounded up and led into a holding pen for banding. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 11 



Chasing Geese 

Want to participate in a little citizen sci- 
ence? Reporting neck collar codes on 
snow geese helps biologists understand 
migration, and it can help you learn a lot 
about these geese that winter along the 
coast in flocks of a thousand or more. 

You'll need a good binocular, or, 
preferably, a spotting scope with a solid 
support such as a tripod or car window 
mount. The collars are usually bright yel- 
low, about four inches wide, with a four- 
digit code in black lettering. Even with a 
powerful scope, it still is necessary to get 
fairly close to the birds. We found that 
the best place to do this is at wildlife 
refuges that have access drives near im- 
poundments used by the birds. At Chin- 
coteague NWR, for example, Wildlife 
Loop circles around a huge impound- 
ment used by geese for most of the win- 
ter. Geese seem to become accustomed 
to seeing vehicles and you can get fairly 
close. 

Weather matters. Bright, sunny 
days make those yellow collars stand out. 
Windy days make the code difficult to 
read because the scope shakes and be- 
cause moving vegetation can obscure 
the lettering. 

It's easiest to get close to the birds 
soon after they arrive. Once they've 
been hunted, they will become very skit- 
tish. Last year, impoundments on Chin- 
coteague NWR froze in early December 
and a memorable Christmas blizzard fol- 
lowed that, forcing the birds to scatter. 
Attempts to approach them in farm 
fields were not successful, and many 
birds moved farther south to find food. 

Report collar numbers at www. 
reportband.gov. Once you've reported 
one and provided the required informa- 
tion, you can easily report others. If you 
have a re-sighting from the same area, 
it's best not to report it unless 30 days or 
more have passed since the previous 
sighting. 

You should get an email notice that 
your report was received within a few 
minutes. A full report and "certificate of 
appreciation" should arrive by email in a 
few days, as long as information on the 
bird has been entered into the database. 




Adult geese are put in a separate pen from goslings. Those with yellow collars are female adults 




The banding team is hard at work banding goslings first, then adults. 



12 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 





Biologist and banding manager Marie-Christine Cadieux has just put a yellow plastic collar 
on this female snow goose. 



Goslings are held in a separate pen to ensure 
they are not trampled by adults. 



tend to fly in large flocks and keep their dis- 
tance from people, but we found that with a 
good quality spotting scope and a great deal of 
patience, we could accurately read the code 
numbers and report them. 

Reporting collar numbers, not surpris- 
ingly, involves the Internet. After each trip we 
went to www.reportband.gov, which took us 
to the website of the Patuxent Wildlife Re- 
search Center Bird Banding Laboratory. Re- 
porting each number takes only a minute or 
so, and the report was quickly confirmed by 
an email. The fun part comes a few days later 
when an email arrives giving the date and 
place the bird was banded, the name of the 
bander, and the age and sex of the bird. All of 
this comes in the form of a certificate of ap- 
preciation from the U.S. Geological Survey 
(Patuxent's parent organization) and the 
Canadian Wildlife Service, who are cooperat- 
ing in the program. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 13 



Hunting 
Snow Geese 

Snow geese are plentiful along the 
Virginia coast in winter, often flying in 
flocks of more than a thousand. But 
hunting them can be problematic. It 
usually takes a lot of decoys to attract 
a huge flock of geese, and mature 
birds that have been shot at before 
are very wary. Grayson Chesser, 
owner of Holden Creek Gun Club 
(757-824-9666) on the Eastern 
Shore, has been hunting snow geese 
for years, using everything from large 
rigs of decoys set around a pit blind, 
to using no decoys at all. 

"The most decoys I've used was 
about 2,700, but this was a long-term 
rig," says Chesser. "It worked well, 
but birds that had been in the area 
for a while learned to avoid it, so we 
depended on new arrivals. The most 
important aspect of goose hunting 
today is scouting. You need to find 
out where the birds are feeding, and 
then locate an area nearby that still 
has plenty of food available. Often, in 
a situation like this, you don't even 
need decoys. You need to be well 
concealed, and it takes patience. 
Sometimes the flock will land out of 
range, but they'll work their way to 
you. It's exciting to be there in a blind 
and have the geese come in around 
you, and you can hear them and 
watch their behavior." 

Chesser advises hunters not to 
try to creep up on a flock. "If they see 
you do that, they assume you're a 
predator. It's better to just walk slow- 
ly toward them. We had our best day 
last year doing that. I sent the dog out 
in front of us, and the geese seemed 
mesmerized by the dog. We were 
able to approach until the geese 
were in range." 




The arrival of snow geese on the Eastern Shore is an annual event celebrated by hunters, 
birders, and visiting tourists. 



We reported collar numbers from four 
trips dating from November 5 through De- 
cember 2, all at Chincoteague NWR. We re- 
ported 30 numbers, eight of which were 
re-sightings. As we received responses from 
the website, we set up a spreadsheet of our 
own and made an interesting discovery. Near- 
ly all of the birds we reported had been band- 
ed at the same place — on the south plain of 
Bylot Island, just north of Baffin Island in the 
Nunavut Province in Arctic Canada, by a 
team led by Dr. Gilles Gauthier of Laval Uni- 
versity. A few of the birds had been banded 
that summer, but some of them had been 
banded in 2002 and 2003, making them 
nearly ten years old. All of them make the an- 
nual trip from the Virginia coast to Bylot Is- 
land and back again — a distance of some 
4,800 miles! 



We contacted the banders and began to 
learn more about Bylot Island and about snow 
geese in general. Foremost, they are creatures 
of habit. The pairs mate for life, and the fe- 
males tend to return to the same breeding ter- 
ritory year after year. They also use the same 
migratory routes year after year, weather per- 
mitting. What puzzled us was this connection 
between Bylot Island and the Virginia coast. 
Bylot is icebound for most of the year. We 
thought of it as a 6,900-square-mile ice cube, 
punctuated by mountain peaks separated by 
perpetual glaciers. And then we learned more. 

"Most of Bylot Island is mountainous, 
but south of the mountain range is a plain 
with extensive lakes, ponds, and grassy wet- 
lands, along with elevated terraces and hills," 
explained Marie-Christine Cadieux, project 
coordinator for the Bylot Island studies. 



14 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 




"These drier areas are a polar oasis supporting 
a great diversity of plant life. There are 360 
plant species and 74 species of birds, includ- 
ing more than 1 00,000 greater snow geese in 
the summer. It's the largest breeding colony of 
snow geese in the world." 

So when Bylot Island's blanket of snow 
disappears in the summer, the landscape be- 
comes one of creeks, ponds, wetlands, and 
sloping uplands covered with grasses and 
sedges. Sound familiar? In July, Bylot might 
be a lot like Chincoteague in January. 

The study of greater snow geese on Bylot 
began in 1 988 through a partnership between 
Laval University in Quebec and the Canadian 
Wildlife Service. When the study began, 
snow goose numbers were growing tremen- 
dously, and biologists were worried about the 
negative effects a large breeding colony of 



geese could have on the Arctic tundra. In re- 
cent years research has expanded to include a 
broad range of plant and animal communi- 
ties. 

"The original intent was to assess the im- 
pact of goose grazing on the Arctic tundra," 
said Cadieux. "But over the years the research 
program has broadened considerably and 
now includes other components of the terres- 
trial ecosystem. We also are interested in 
learning how climate change may impact the 
plant and animal communities of the tun- 
dra." 

It is difficult to believe that the Arctic 
tundra — wildly remote and covered with ice 
for most of the year — could have anything in 
common with the Virginia coast. But it does, 
and this connection is evident in the life of the 
greater snow goose. A range map on the Laval 
University website (www.cen.ulaval.ca/gon- 
gsg/) shows summer breeding grounds in a 
fairly concentrated area on Bylot Island. Win- 
ter grounds center on the Virginia coast, ex- 
tending northward along the Delmarva 
Peninsula into the Bombay Hook area of 
Delaware and southward to the sounds and 
shallow lakes of eastern North Carolina. The 
two are connected by a migratory route 
through central Quebec, with a staging area 
along the St. Lawrence estuary. 

Snow geese travel to the Arctic to breed 
because in summer the tundra provides excel- 
lent habitat for nesting and raising goslings, 
with plenty of young grasses for forage. Tim- 
ing is critical, however, because nesting can't 
occur until the snow melts, and the geese 



must raise their young, molt, and be ready to 
head south before the fall snows arrive. Bylot 
averages only 1 1 days a year when the tem- 
perature climbs above freezing. 

"The average laying date on Bylot Island 
is June 12," said Cadieux. "The eggs will 
hatch 23 to 24 days after the last egg is laid. 
The geese average about four eggs per nest, 
but nesting success depends largely upon 
weather and predators. The Arctic fox, para- 
sitic jaeger, and raven are some of the princi- 
pal predators of eggs and young birds. The 
adults also are vulnerable during the nesting 
season as they molt (shed and re-grow) all 
their flight feathers. So timing is everything. If 
snow-melt occurs later than usual, the birds 
might not nest at all." 

At this time of year, a trip to the coast 
will provide a clue as to the success of the 
summer nesting season. Find a flock of snow 
geese in a wildlife refuge or farm field, scan 
them with your binoculars or scope, and see 
how many dusky gray birds are scattered in 
with the snowy white adults. The gray ones 
would be the juveniles, the birds that hatched 
last July, the ones that followed their parents 
on a flight through Quebec to the St. 
Lawrence wedands, and finally to the coast of 
Virginia for the first time. And while you're 
scanning, keep an eye out for a bright yellow 
neck collar. If you happen to see number 
44CC, tell her we say, "Welcome back." <* 

Curtis Badger, whose most recent book is A Natural 
History of Quiet Waters (UVA Press), has written 
widely about natural history and wildlife art. He 
lives on Virginia's Eastern Shore. 




JANUARY 2012 ♦ 15 




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Page 16, Master Falconer Bill Barbour prepares his adult red-tailed hawk for hunting at the VFA 
Winchester Field Meet. Right, Barbour kneels by his hawk with its wings mantled over a just- 
captured rabbit. Above, Master Falconer Ray Miller proudly displays his American kestrel at a VFA 
hawk talk. Kestrels are awesome hunters. 



story and photos 
by Mane Majarov 

Imagine walking along a hedgerow on 
a chilly winter morning. A red-tailed 
hawk "waiting on" (following over- 
head in falconry parlance) smoothly glides to 
a nearby branch with a glorious swooshing 
sound as its wings fold. "I never tire of that" 
says Master Falconer Bill Barbour. All the 



while, the hawk's keen eye is on the falconer 
flushing quarry below. A rabbit scurries from 
the underbrush; the hawk quickly takes off in 
aggressive pursuit. Strike! In an instant the 
rabbit is ensnared by powerful talons, the rap- 
tor's wings "mantled (stretched) over" the 
prey. The bird is rewarded with a "tidbit" 
while the falconer smoothly stows the carcass 
and the bird returns afist, ready to hunt again. 
This is the art of falconry. 




Our commonwealth is a wonderful 
place for falconry. It has numerous breeding 
hawks and falcons, a wide variety of game, 
and a passionate group of individuals who 
"share a common enterprise: falconry and a 
love for birds of prey and their environment" 
in the Virginia Falconers Association (VFA). 
A strong, mutually beneficial working rela- 
tionship with the Department (DGIF) has 
been significant in VFA's mission to keep fal- 
conry "relevant, legal, accessible, and ethical." 

Last January found falconers Dr. Eva 
King, president of the VFA, her husband An- 
drew King, and John Moore, dressed in their 
Sunday best with magnificent raptors on 
leather-gloved fists, together with DGIF Ex- 
ecutive Director Bob Duncan addressing the 
General Assembly House Committee for 
Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Re- 
sources. Their goal: approval of a critical bill 
that would help bring falconry in Virginia in 
line with federal standards, provide increased 
protections for retrieving falconers' birds that 
previously applied only to hunting dogs, and 




JANUARY 2012 ♦ 17 





r. Eva King, president of VFA, holds gyr/saker Archimedes 
(Arc for short) who is quite the ambassador for falconry at 
public events. 



impose penalties for anyone who intentional- 
ly removes a location-transmitting device 
from a bird. 

Following a meet, greet, and picture 
snapping with the birds, Dr. King, holding 
"Kira" her red-tailed hawk, eloquently pre- 
sented the bill, explaining its legal back- 
ground, rationale, relevance, and practical 
implications. Director Duncan then spoke 
regarding the governors support for the bill, 
emphasizing the negligible biological impact 
of falconers' activities and their positive con- 
tributions. The impressive delegation typifies 
the ethics, conservation values, regulations, 
and dedication that characterize this sport. 
With a magnificent gyr/saker hybrid falcon, 
red-tailed, and Harris hawk keeping their eyes 
on the delegates, the bill passed, unopposed. 
"It was beautiful!" states a grateful Dr. King. 

Then and Now 

Falconry is known to be well over 4,000 years 
old. Earliest records of hunting with raptors 
originate in ancient China, Arabia, and Per- 
sia. References by Aristotle place the sport of 
falconry in Europe as early as 300 BC, but not 
until Medieval times did it gain popularity, 
particularly in France and England. The sport 
of kings, theft of a trained raptor was punish- 
able by death! Pageantry and spectacular fal- 
con flights delighted the aristocracy, but for 
the common man, diminutive "sparrow 
hawks" helped to keep the larders stocked. 

With the advent of effective sporting 
firearms, interest in falconry waned. Deter- 
mined landowners, mainly in Britain, formed 
clubs to keep the art alive; in 1961 the North 
American Falconers Association was founded 
(now approximately 2,000 members strong). 
Falconry is legal in 49 states today. Only 
Hawaii, in light of its specialized ecosystem, 
does not authorize falconry as a legitimate 
form of hunting. 

Many of the ancient traditions still form 
the core of this sport, especially the acquiring 
of young falcons or hawks in the fall (see 
DGIF regulations link at end), hunting with 
them in the winter, and releasing them back 
into the wild come spring. The use of juvenile 
birds prevents disruptions to breeding adults 
and "helps the young raptors to survive the 
most vulnerable time of their life," says Dr. 
King, adding, "Only 25% survive their first 
year in the wild." Captive-bred and hybrid 
birds are also used, protected by transmitting 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 







Master Falconer Brian Cullen and his Harris hawk display their skills at a VFA Field Meet. 
These medium-sized birds of prey are quite social and easy to train. 




trust and food." Raptors are "opportunists" 
that see the falconer as "useful, providing ex- 
cellent hunting opportunities, safety, and reg- 
ular quality food." Falconers know and 
respect that violations of this contract will end 
the relationship. 



Way of Life 



Being a falconer requires immense dedica- 
tion, long-term demands of time, effort, 
knowledge, and resources. Dr. King describes 
it more as "a way of life." Being the only sport 
that utilizes a trained wild creature, it is also 
the most regulated sport with extremely strin- 
gent state and federal licensing requirements. 

The first step in becoming a falconer is 
finding a sponsor, obtaining a packet of infor- 
mation from DGIF outlining federal and 
state permit and licensing processes, and un- 
derstanding fully what an apprenticeship and 
caring for a bird will entail. Hawks have very 
specific requirements for food, housing, 
bathing, exercising, travel, and hunting op- 
portunities. 

The future apprentice must build a 
mews, study raptor identification, biology, 
natural history, maintenance of raptors in 
captivity, falconry practices, and regulations. 
After successfully passing a written exam and 
facilities inspection administered by a DGIF 
biologist, obtaining a written letter of com- 
mitment by his or her sponsor, and meeting 
appropriate seasonal hunting licenses and 
hunter education certification requirements, 
the apprenticeship may begin. 



Master Falconer John Foley (R) passes on the art of hood making to Keiran Zwirner, 
a 1 st Year Apprentice. You must be 14 years old to undertake a falconry apprenticeship. 



devices to ensure their recovery and prevent 
escape into the wild. Falconers are serious 
conservationists. 

The relationship between birds of prey 
and their falconer has always been and con- 
tinues to be fundamental to the sport. Yes, 
there is "often an emotional connection for 
the human" to these splendid creatures in 
their care, explains Dr. King, but basically it is 
"a business relationship, a contract based on 



This leather hood, beautifully 
handcrafted by John Foley, will keep 
a raptor calm. 



19 



A falconry apprenticeship extends over 
two years, and when passed, the apprentice is 
eligible for a general falconry permit. After 
five years of practicing the sport at the general 
level, the falconer is then eligible to become a 
master permittee. DGIF inspections of rap- 
tors, mews, and equipment may be conduct- 
ed at any time. Falconers know the 
importance of regulation and "ensuring that 
people are serious," says Dr. King. "The stan- 
dards we put on ourselves are usually more 
strict." The responsible use of raptors is of ut- 
most importance to protect the birds. 

By 2014 all states will be required to 
meet newly updated federal standards (see 
link to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which 
oversees the protection of all species of birds). 
Regulation will then fall solely under each 
state. DGIF and the VFA have this upcom- 
ing deadline well in hand and will be operat- 
ing under updated and approved regulations 
as of this writing. 

Activities 

Habitat conservation is a major focus for Vir- 
ginia's falconers: open spaces for falcons 
hunting from soars, zooming down head- 
first at stunning speeds ("a stoop") to hit and 
then smoothly dispatch prey with their 
beaks; and hedgerows and forests for hawks, 
species that prefer to hunt from a perch. Vir- 
ginia's falconers along with DGIF have also 
contributed significandy to the restoration of 
raptor species devastated by the broad use of 




DDT following World War II; most especial- 
ly, the peregrine falcon. Their kestrel nest- 
boxes and peregrine eyries dot the 
countryside. 

Falconers also work closely with the 
Wildlife Center of Virginia and the Raptor 
Conservancy (RCV), aiding in the rehabilita- 
tion of injured and/or orphaned raptors. 
Who better to train a hawk in need of hunt- 
ing skills to survive in the wild than an expert 
falconer? Creative raptor rescues must occa- 
sionally be engineered using falconers' spe- 
cialized knowledge of raptor physiology and 
behavior. Dr. Eva and Andrew King were 
called by the RCV to help design such a res- 
cue for a juvenile Cooper's hawk trapped in 
the main reading room of the Library of Con- 
gress. (Most likely, the Coop followed a pi- 
geon through an open library window.) 
Patience and their knowledge that starlings 
are irresistible to hungry Coops led to success. 

VFA provides open to the public events 
that are excellent opportunities to see these 
breathtaking raptors up close. "Hawk Talks," 
educational presentations highlighting fal- 
conry and conservation, are conducted in 
many locations around our commonwealth. 

Two yearly field meets— January in 
Harrisonburg, and February in Winches- 
ter — allow guests to actually view falconers 
hunting with their birds as well as dutch-treat 
group dinners to hear hunting stories, ask 
questions, and for those considering becom- 
ing a falconer, talk to potential sponsors. An 



annual late summer picnic provides time for 
falconers to catch up on news after the long 
summer "molt," show off new birds, meet 
new people, and link sponsors with those de- 
siring apprenticeship. See the VFA website 
below for specific details of these events, 
which present a wonderful opportunity to 
learn more about falconry and VFAs deep 
commitment to their birds, conservation, ed- 
ucation and advocacy for wild raptors. 

Falconry is a very special sport, art, and 



way of life. Gary Kershner, a second-year ap- 
prentice, expresses it beautifully: "All my life I 
have been in awe of nature, especially birds. 
Falconry allows me the opportunity to be part 
of nature first-hand, witnessing these spectac- 
ular birds and the balance of life and death. 
To me falconry is an ethical commitment." ?f 

Marie and Milan Majarov (www. majarov. com) live 
in Winchester and are nature enthusiasts and active 
in the Virginia and Mason-Dixon outdoor writers 
associations. Marie is a Virginia Master Naturalist. 




Every falconer must build a mews to house their raptor, with a weather-protected area 
and a screened-in open area for exercise. 




FORMORE INFORMATION 

Virginia Falconers Association: 
http://vafalconry.swva.net/WhoWeAre.html 

Virginia Falconry Regulations: 
www.dgif.virginia.gov/forms/PERM/falconry.pdf 

Raptors in Virginia: 
www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/birds/raptors/ 

Falconry Education: 
www.themodernapprentice.com/ 

North American Falconers Association: 
www.n-a-f-a.com/ 

US Fish & Wildlife Migratory Bird Information: 
www.fws.gov/migratorybirds/ 

Wildlife Center of Virginia: 
www.wildlifecenter.org/ 

The Raptor Conservancy of Virginia: 
www.raptorsva.org/ 



Master Falconer Lee Chichester sees to her bird's water needs after a morning of traveling. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 21 












WF, 



Bringing Back A River 

Partners unite to restore the North Fork of the Powell. 



by Bruce ingram 

On a cool, overcast day in early 
April, Justin Laughlin points to a 
badly eroded and quite steep, 
barren riverbank some 1 to 12 feet high and 
200 feet long. At the downstream end of the 
bank, two trees, having lost their foundation 
because of erosion, have toppled. 

We are at the Pennington Gap Project 
on the North Fork of the Powell as the river 
flows through Leeman Field Park in Lee 
County. The undertaking is part of a joint 
project among a full slate of public entities, 
among them the DGIF and the Virginia De- 
partment of Forestry (VDOF), U.S. Fish and 
Wildlife Service (USFWS), Tennessee Valley 
Authority (TVA), Upper Tennessee River 
Roundtable, the Daniel Boone Soil and 
Water Conservation District, and the town of 
Pennington Gap. 

"It takes a culture to change a watershed, 
and one of the things the Pennington Gap 
partners want to show the public is how an 
Appalachian stream that has had diverse and 




Top, stream restoration biologist Justin Laughlin points out an eroded shoreline. Deeply eroded 
banks characterized the North Fork of the Powell before restoration began. 



22 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HunfFishVA.com 



extreme land use can be revitalized," says 
Laughlin, a stream restoration biologist with 
theDGIF. 

"Our ultimate goal is to improve wildlife 
habitat and water quality and reduce sedi- 
mentation over the course of approximately 
1 ,000 linear feet of stream that flows through 
the park. As part of a parallel process, a green- 
way will be designed to follow along the wa- 
terway." 

During the spring, Laughlin and repre- 
sentatives from other agencies will plant 
hardwoods and shrubs favorable for wildlife, 
to reduce erosion and create shade along the 
denuded bank. Willows and shrubs such as 
silky dogwoods, elderberries, buttonbush, 
and indigo bushes will be planted closest to 
the water and 5 to 1 feet back will go red 
maples, Northern red, pin, and water oaks, 
sycamores, river birches, Eastern redbuds, 
yellow poplars, and black walnuts. Without 
this vegetation, the bank would continue to 
recede and the planned trail would be jeop- 
ardized as well. 

At our next stop, Laughlin points to 
where a J-hook will be located. In engineer- 
ing parlance, this is an upstream facing J- 
shaped structure made of rocks and wood 



that diverts stream flow away from the bank 
and thus reduces erosion. 

From there, we walk to where a bankfull 
bench will be created. The "bankfull" stage of 
flow is when water fills the shoreline and is 
about to overflow into the flood plain. To de- 
crease the possibility of this happening, the 
upper bank is cut so that it angles backward, 
and the lower is filled in with a bottom layer 
of woody debris and soil. Soil mats are then 
positioned above and vegetation is planted. 
As a result, over time the streambed will deep- 
en and the chance of flooding and further 
erosion will decrease. 

From there, Laughlin takes me to the 
end of the project where a few feet above the 
river a sewer pipe spans the North Fork. 
Here, the plan is to construct a W-weir, 
which is a downstream facing backwards W- 
shaped structure typically made of rocks. The 
stream biologist explains that the W-weir will 
protect the pipe from washing out of its 
moorings. It will also dramatically reduce 
bank erosion and keep sediment from force- 
fully striking the pipe when water levels be- 
come high. 

On our way back to the vehicle, Laugh- 
lin discusses other plans for the Pennington 



Gap project. In one place, kudzu blankets the 
bank and participating partners will attempt 
to replace this invasive with native vegetation. 
At other stops, he speculates where kiosks 
could be located so that the public can learn 
about the benefits of these various stream 
restoration activities and why such things as 
buffer zones and native vegetation are impor- 
tant. 

"The North Fork of the Powell has so 
much potential as a smallmouth bass stream," 
says Laughlin. "But right now, there are places 
where we could step into the stream and sink 
up to our knees in silt, which makes it harder 
for smallmouths to find spawning areas. The 
Pennington Gap project will hopefully begin 
the process of improving streamside habitat 
for wildlife and in-stream habitat for fish and 
several species of threatened and endangered 
mussels." 

The Pennington Gap project will play it- 
self out over the next several years, but one 
thing is clear: restoration of the North Fork 
has most certainly begun. ?f 



Bruce Ingram has authored many guide books. 

For more information on Bruce Ingram 's river fishing 

books: www. bruceingramoutdoors. com. 




Justin Laughlin says the Pennington Gap project is a good example of how different partners can 
work together to improve a resource. 



This sewer pipe marks the end of the project area. 
A W-weir will be constructed to reduce erosion. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 23 



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Small deer are big game by the beach 









by Charlie Petrocci 

As fall colors bleed into winter, the 
days become shorter and the 
nights become cooler. Along the 
Eastern Shore, the barrier islands begin to 
transform. The seasonal change in this chal- 
lenging environment is often the trigger-pull 
for wildlife to either flee, flock, or mate. Out 
on Assateague Island late fall is also marked by 
fog-shrouded tidal marshes and half-naked 
hardwoods. Long gone are the summer 
crowds. The island is now owned by wads of 
shorebirds, passing peregrine falcons, and an 



endless stream of fugitive waterfowl including 
the vanguard flocks of boisterous migrating 
snow geese. Consequendy the cool air is filled 
with the sounds of wildlife. But as the sun sets 
each evening, the night vocalizations are 
owned by a mysterious, exotic animal from 
the far side of the world: one whose eerie cry 
beckons both bewilderment and curiosity. 

The high-pitched call of this ungulate is 
like no other among Eastern Shore wildlife. 
And it almost always comes in a sequence of 
three. It is no Halloween prank, alien visitor, 
or woman being attacked in the woods. It is 
the call of a small Asian species of a diminutive 
elk known as the sika deer. The deep guttural 



sound is the bugle of the male sika, claiming 
his piece of landscape on this barrier island 
and letting others know he is ready to do bat- 
de if need be. 

And if you are fortunate this winter, you 
may see a bull sika emerge from the fog, cross 
a brackish pond and disappear like a ghost 
into a deep, almost impenetrable maridme 
forest mix of loblolly pines, thick myrtle 
bushes, and formidable greenbriers. He is a 
shadowy figure who sports a dark mane, 
chocolate coat, and swept-back anders. Luck- 
ily, though, he is small in stature, since other- 
wise he would prove imposing to both island 
visitors and other wildlife alike. 



24 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 




The Game Plan 

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has 
more than 14,000 acres of beautiful tidal 
marsh, freshwater marsh, and upland mar- 
itime forest. Each fall/winter season the 
refuge hosts an annual Big Game Bow and 
Firearms hunt program, targeting primarily 
sika deer. (There is a short whitetail season as 
well.) Over the decades, the sika hunt has 
been very popular. 

"We get hunters from not only Virginia, 
but from across the mid-Atlantic region. 
Some of the hunters have been participating 
for years, with several generations now show- 
ing up. The hunt objective is to keep sika 
numbers in check and provide outdoor recre- 
ation," said Kim Halpin, deputy refuge man- 
ager. Sika are considered an exotic, nonnative 
species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
To participate in the refuge program, 
hunters can apply for a date and area through 
a contract management company called the 
Kinsail Corporation. Hunters selected must 
then attend a mandatory orientation at the 
refuge. "It lets hunters know the refuge regu- 
lations, safety issues, and the hunt area 
boundaries," added Halpin. 
§ Public hunting areas for either sika or 

Is whitetail deer are broken into various Hunt 
£ Zones. There are approximately 1 8 hunt areas 
c available, including one designated for wheel- 
© chair hunters. Sections 1 through 2a are open 




Sika deer have been present in Virginia for 90 years and have adapted well to life in the coastal 
marshes and maritime forests of the Eastern Shore. 



Foreign Invasion 

Though sika deer are excellent swim- 
mers, they certainly didn't paddle over 
here from Asia on their own. They don't 
have a shipwreck legend to claim either, 
like their fellow forest-dwelling friends— 
the wild ponies. No, they arrived on As- 
sateague Island in a most unheralded 
way, as legend has it, by means of the Boy 
Scouts. 

It all began when in 1916 a Maryland 
man by the name of Clement Henry ac- 
quired several exotic sika for his own, 
possibly as pets. Not long after, he re- 
leased some of these animals on James 
Island, Maryland, and they soon spread 
to the mainland of Dorchester County. In 
1920 another Maryland man purchased 
some sika, and the story goes that several 
male and female animals were then 
taken by the Boy Scouts and released on 
the Maryland side of Assateague Island. It 
didn't take long for the adaptable, mud- 
loving ungulates to colonize the whole is- 
land, including the Virginia portion. 
When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 
created the Chincoteague National 
Wildlife refuge on Assateague Island (na- 
tional refuges are traditionally named for 
where they get their mail; thus Chin- 
coteague), in 1943, they, like the wild 
ponies, inherited by then a well estab- 
lished sika population. And it was grow- 
ing. So much so that officials were afraid 
of overloading the carrying capacity of 
the island, including other forest and 
marsh dwellers such as whitetails and 
wild ponies. To help keep the soaring sika 
population in check they began a public 
hunt in 1965. Over the decades the hunt 
has proven not only very popular, but also 
very successful since sika numbers are 
currently at historic lows. 

But sika have been extending their 
range on the Eastern Shore of both Mary- 
land and Virginia for the last 20 years. 
Since they are good swimmers it was only 
a matter of time before they would break 
out of their Dorchester County, Maryland 
and Assateague Island historic bastions. 
Sika deer are now legal fair game in 
Wicomico, Somerset and Worcester 
counties of Maryland. And I know first- 
hand that they have been on Wallops Is- 
land and also at Saxis Wildlife 
Management Area in Accomack County. 
Evidently, the exotic elk have found an ac- 
commodating home on the Eastern 
Shore and they are here to stay. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 25 



A Little 
Sika Biology 

Sika deer are actually sika elk. Yet they 
are a member of the genus and 
species Cervus nippon, which are true 
deer. As a matter of fact sika means 
"deer" in Japanese. Historically sika in- 
habited China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and 
Japan. In most parts of Asia sika have 
become endangered, except in Japan 
where they are considered abundant. 
(Preliminary genetic studies in Mary- 
land suggest the Assateague sika origi- 
nated from a small island in southern 
Japan.) 

Sika are one of the few deer 
species that do not lose their spots 
into maturity. Fur color can change 
with the seasons with light brown 
prevalent in the warmer months and 
changing to a dark chocolate brown in 
winter. Bucks will sometimes become 
almost black during the rut. Males also 
have a short mane on their necks, and 
both the male and female will display a 
distinctive white rump when alarmed. 

Sika are active throughout the 
day but will turn nocturnal if pressured 
by hunting. The rut occurs from Sep- 
tember through early November, and 
the bucks are very territorial. The 
males will mark their territory with 
scrapes, or "wallows," that they will 
urinate in, leaving a strong musky 
smell to warn other males. Both male 
and female sika emit numerous vocal- 
izations, with the "chirp" or "bark" 
alarm being commonly heard and the 
guttural buck "bugle" the most distinc- 
tive and eerie call they make. Sika are 
small deer, averaging about 2 to 3 feet 
at the rump, with a 100-pound buck 
being very uncommon in the wild. Fe- 
males will rarely exceed 75 pounds. 
Sika populations can now be found 
throughout the world. Here in the U.S., 
wild populations of sika are found in 
Texas, Maryland, and the Eastern 
Shore of Virginia. 

For information on permits and lottery 
hunts on Chincoteague NWR: 
www.fws.gov/northeast/chinco/ 
hunting.html. 




Sika bucks can be distinguished from a whitetail by their chocolate-colored coats and antlers that 
sweep back. 



to shotgun, muzzleloader, or pistol hunting, 
while areas 3 through 1 1 are open for rifle as 
well. My favorite hunting area has always 
been area 8, known as Ragged Point. This 
area has diverse island habitat and also the 
slight remains of an 18th-century structure 
once called the Lonesome House. Pome- 
granate trees now mark the historic location. 

Bag limits for sika are liberal at five ani- 
mals per day, two of which may be antlered. 
Hunt seasons for the 20 1 1 season were as fol- 
lows: Bow season from October 17-26 and 
Firearms from December 5—16; and 
Firearms again from January 5-20, 2012. A 
total of 125 bow hunters were allowed to 
hunt the short 6-day season, which has been 
cut down from 5 weeks of bow hunting. This 
has upset some hunters. 

"It was a great bow hunt experience, but 
the refuge evidently believes that gun hunt- 
ing is more effective in removing sika," said 
one-time refuge bow hunter John Hollowell 
from Lancaster County. Overall, the sika 
hunt is aggressive by design, with more than 
80 gun hunters allowed to harvest up to five 
deer each during any given two-day hunt. 
Multiply this times the amount of hunt days 



and you have a potential harvest which far ex- 
ceeds the animal load on the island. But the 
sika remain resilient. 

Down and Dirty 

Hunting for sika is not like hunting for white- 
tails. If you want to get a shot at an animal you 
need to get down and dirty, literally. Since 
they prefer hanging out in marshes, thick 
cover, and dense habitat, hunters will often 
find themselves crawling or wading into their 
domain. This type of hunting is not for the 
faint of heart. Sure, many sika are killed from 
portable tree stands in the upper maritime 
forest areas, but the big boys tend to hunker 
down in the thick stuff and to find them will 
take shedding some sweat and blood to briars, 
sharp salt grasses, and those ubiquitous marsh 
mosquitoes. 

Sika will move through dense vegetation 
by using either existing pony trails or carving 
their own tunnels. Sika pathways are often 
small, tight, and low to the ground, where 
even a whitetail would have trouble navigat- 
ing through. The best ambush points for 
hunters are where these trails intersect at a for- 
est opening or funnel out to a marsh, either 



26 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 




Asian Elk Sear 

Sika are very good eating and many hunters 
prefer the meat over whitetail. Below is a 
recipe for sika with an Asian twist. 

2 pounds sika back-strap (tenderloin) cubed 

% cup light soy sauce 

1 small ginger root, chopped 

% cup Teriyaki 

Two squeezed lemons 

6 cloves garlic, chopped 

1)4 cup Panko rice flakes 

(available in most stores) 
4 tablespoons canola oil 

Marinade meat in soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, 
lemon juice and chopped garlic for 2 hours in 
a bowl. Remove meat chunks, drain, and 
then coat well in Panko flakes. Heat iron skil- 
let with oil and cook meat on both sides for 
about 3 to 5 minutes total. Remove, garnish 
with scallions, drizzle with teriyaki sauce, and 
dabs of hot chili sauce. Serve with Basmati 
rice, steamed fresh broccoli, and snap beans. 



To get down and dirty with sika in their island water world, you'll need comfortable rubber boots, 
bug spray, camo mask, and a close encounter brush gun like a 30-30 caliber rifle. 



tidal or fresh. Another good spot to hunt for 
sika is among the inside of secondary sand 
dunes behind the beach. There is nothing like 
hearing the haunting call of a bull sika com- 
ing from the dune area just as the sun is rising 
over the ocean. Experiences like this can't be 
bought. 

For hunters, the most important piece 
of gear is perhaps a good pair of knee-high 
rubber boots. Inevitably if you are hunting 
sika the right way, you will encounter water 
and mud. So be prepared. Binoculars, a 
portable ladder or climbing stand, and insect 
repellent are also a plus in scoring an animal. 
As far as weapons, compound or crossbows 
will get you up close and personal for a great 
hunt experience. Guns need not be large cal- 
iber. A fast, flat shooting 270 or pump shot- 
gun is all that is needed for harvesting these 
small animals in tight quarters. My personal 
favorite sika gun has always been a Winches- 
ter 30-30 caliber lever action rifle with open 
iron sights. It's an easy-to-handle, close en- 
counter field and brush weapon that gets the 
job done. 

A note of caution when shooting in low 
light conditions: The difference between a 



whitetail and a sika can often be confusing. 
Sika deer have a low-to-the-ground profile, a 
large omnipresent white rump, faint white 
spots, and short ears. Male sika also have 
swept-back antlers, while a whitetail's antlers 
fold forward. And Eastern Shore sika bucks 
rarely sport more than six points total at any 
time in their life cycle. 

So if you are fortunate enough to be 
drawn to hunt sika on Assateague Island, and 
you are sitting in a tree stand trying to squeeze 
the last of the daylight out of the hunt, search 
for those ghost-like shadows as they move 
through the maritime forest. Wait, what was 
that? Something splashing toward you 
through a shallow water pond. With your 
senses on high alert you hear three hair-raising 
bugles from the brush behind you. It's an an- 
cient call from a diminutive elk from the Far 
East, the opposite side of the world. Count 
yourself fortunate to be able to hunt and ex- 
perience them right here on Virginia's Eastern 
Shore, if 

Charlie Petrocci is a maritime heritage researcher, 
lecturer, and consultant who specializes in coastal 
traditiom such as fisheries, seafood, and community 
folklife. He has lived on the shore for 25 years. 




By setting up near open marshes, hidden 
"wallows," and crossing trails, a hunter can 
sometimes get a shot at eye level. Tree stands 
will occasionally offer an advantage. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 27 



AFIELD AND AFLOAT 




Outdoor 
Classics 

b 

'Bern 3~ttrttr 



Bugivater:A Fly Fisher's Look Through 
The Seasons at Bugs in Their Aquatic 
Habitat and the Fish That Eat Them 

by Arlen Thomason 

2010 Stackpole Books 
Hardcover with color photographs 
www.stackpolebooks.com 

"Water with many different types of bugs living 
in it is healthy water. And because the healthiest 
waters are usually those least disturbed by the ac- 
tivities of man, they generally rate high on the 
aesthetics scale too. I can think of few places I 
would rather be than on good bugwater. " 

-Arlen Thomason 

Several years ago, while browsing through the 
magazine rack of a local outdoor supply store, 
the cover of a well-known fly tying magazine 
captured my attention. It was a picture of a 
stonefly nymph, a fly tying tour de force so 
incredibly realistic, it looked as if it had been 
freshly plucked from some pristine trout 
water. The close-up photo showcased every 
detail of the insect's exoskeleton. As a novice 
fly angler tying up my first serviceable batches 
of Clouser minnows, terrestrials, and wooly 
buggers, that photo inspired me to take a 
closer look at the insects that trout were likely 
to slurp up. I hunted for books that would 
provide me with large, color photos of these 
fish canapes, but I found existing volumes in- 
adequate for my needs. 

Now, a recent Stackpole publication, 
Bugwater, fits the bill in every way. Written by 
a fly angler who happens to be a retired mo- 
lecular biologist, the book follows both bugs 
and trout though their seasonal life cycles. 
Large, highly detailed, glossy photos that 
show the bugs in their native habitats are 
complemented by staged photos taken in 
specially constructed 'slant-tanks'. Particular- 
ly helpful are those shots that show how in- 
sects and their fly imitation look as they're 



buoyed by surface tension, or as they appear 
below the water. There is plenty of hard sci- 
ence in this book, especially in those sections 
describing fish optics, but the science is inte- 
grated into the text with a light hand, and de- 
scriptions of 'what fish see, and how they see 
it' are interesting in the extreme. Though 
much of the author's perspective comes pri- 
marily from his western home waters, the in- 
formation translates easily wherever trout 
waters flow. 

Amazing descriptions of how these 
trout-attracting bugs live out their lives great- 
ly expand our perceptions of them, whether 
we experience them as anglers, outdoor pho- 
tographers, naturalists, or fly tiers. As case- 
makers, caddisfly display an exacting 
craftsmanship; some nymphs look like 
miniature lobsters whose specialized body 
parts help them burrow into sediment; 
predaceous, aquatic-diving beetles extract 
oxygen from the air, and as adults, carry their 
air supply with them as they go under water; 
March brown nymphs have flattened, frog- 
like faces that help reduce water resistance in 
swift currents; and some aquatic worms get 
their red color from the oxygen-carrying he- 
moglobin within their tissues. 

This month, make a New Years' resolu- 
tion you can keep: Pledge to learn something 
new about trout and the buggy waters in 
which they thrive. 




Congratulations to CPO Richard Howald, a 
member of the DGIF K9Team, who was 
selected as the Southeastern Association of 
Fish and Wildlife Agencies' Law Enforcement 
Officer of the Year during the recently com- 
pleted conference in Nashville, TN. Richard is 
the first officer from Virginia to be selected 
for this prestigious honor. 



Access to DGIF WMAs and Lakes 
May Require a Permit 

Effective January 1, 2012, an Access Per- 
mit will be required when using any 
Department-owned wildlife management 
area or fishing lake. The Access Permit is 
not required for any person holding a valid 
Virginia hunting, fishing, or trapping 
license or a current Virginia boat registra- 
tion, or persons 16 years of age or younger. 
The Access Permit requirement does not 
apply to Department-owned boat ramps 
or to hikers on the Appalachian Trail pass- 
ing through Department-owned lands. 
The permit fee is $4 for a daily permit or 
$23 for an annual permit and may be pur- 
chased online or at any license agent. For 
more information go to the Department's 
website at www.dgif.virginia.gov. 







"No matter where the turkeys 
are they'll be able to see this 
decoy." 



Buy Your Lifetime License 

1-866-721-6911 

Report Wildlife Violations 
1-800-237-5712 



28 



VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 



ATTENTIONYOUNGWRITERS 

Wondering what to do over the holidays? 

The Virginia Outdoor Writers Association annually sponsors two 
writing competitions for Virginia high school students (grades 
9-12) and undergraduate students attending a Virginia college or 
university. Awards of gift certificates, outdoors gear, and cash are 
offered for winning entries. 

Go to www.vowa.org for contest guidelines, the submission 
deadline, and other details. Then grab some paper or a laptop and 
get to work! Deadline is February 13, 2012. 




BOYS & GIRLS CLUB of the northern neck 




Three CPOs visited the newly formed Nature Club, of the Boys and Girls Club in 
Kilmarnock. They gave a presentation, and Jake (of the DGIF K9 team) showed 
participants how he could find a turkey feather hidden in an outside compart- 
ment of the activity bus. Pictured here are CPO Megan Vick, with Jake, and 
board member Mary Louisa Pollard. 



12th Annual 
Virginia Fly Fishing Festival 

Waynesboro 
April 21-22, 2012 

www.vaflyfishingfestival.org 



Answers to the December 2011 
"Byrd Nest" Crossword Puzzle 



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IMAGE OF THE MONTH 




Congratulations go to Silvanita Alvarado, a commer- 
cial photography student at the Chesterfield Techni- 
cal Center, for her awesome stop action photograph 
of water flowing from a fountain taken at Lewis Gin- 
ter Botanical Garden during A Day of Photography in 
the Garden this past October 22. Way to go Silvanita ! 
Nikon D40X digital SLR camera, ISO 400, l/3200th, 
f/5.6. 

You are invited to submit one to five of your best 
photographs to "Image of the Month," Virginia 
Wildlife Magazine, P.O. Box 11104, 4010 West Broad 
Street, Richmond, VA 23230-1104. Send original 
slides, super high-quality prints, or high-res jpeg, 
tiff, or raw files on a disk and include a self-ad- 
dressed, stamped envelope or other shipping 
method for return. Also, please include any pertinent 
information regarding how and where you captured 
the image and what camera and settings you used, 
along with your phone number. We look forward to 
seeing and sharing your work with our readers. 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 29 




Whitd 

Winter = J\ 



essay by Matt Knox 

After the chaos of the fall breeding 
season, one might think that winter 
in the whitetail's world would offer a welcome 
respite. It does not. It will be the deer's most 
trying season; a season of survival. For most of 
the year, nature typically provides a bountiful 
plenty for deer, but in winter her cupboard 
can be pretty bare. It is cold and it snows. 

One of the whitetail's most amazing win- 
ter adaptations is its winter coat. The gray 
brown coat, which it acquired at the start of 
the fall rut, has tremendous insulative capabil- 
ities. Anywhere from one-quarter to one inch 
thick, it is composed of long, hollow, protec- 
tive guard hairs with a very thick and dense 
under fur. The guard hairs provide protection, 
and the under fur traps air and insulates the 
deer. One of the best examples of this insulat- 
ing ability is deer bedded down during a 
snowstorm. In spite of a normal body temper- 
ature exceeding 100°, the falling snow just 
piles up on them and does not melt. That's a 
good coat! 

To conserve energy during bitterly cold 
days, deer drastically restrict their movements 
and activity. In northern states, deer migrate 
long distances to traditional winter yarding 
areas. Deer in Virginia do not migrate or yard, 
but they make use of thermal cover during 
cold spells. Thermal cover in Virginia is typi- 
cally characterized by fairly dense stands of 
evergreens like pines or cedars. The ambient 
temperature in these habitats is not signifi- 
cantly different, but because these habitats al- 
most completely block the wind, the energy 
savings related to convective heat loss (think 
wind chill) to a deer are very significant. Also, 
snow depths in these dense evergreen stands 
are commonly much less than in open woods 
and fields. To conserve energy, deer travel 
more during the day and sunny periods. They 
will often bed on open, east-southeast slopes 
to lie in the sun. 



tail Biology 

3 Season of Survival 




If a good mast crop was available back in 
the fall, deer will come into winter in good to 
very good condition with globs of waxy white 
fat. If acorns are still available, they will con- 
tinue to be used heavily during winter and 
deer can continue to lay down fat. Deer with 
adequate body fat will survive normal winters 
here. Grasses and evergreen browse like 
greenbrier, honeysuckle, and privet are also 
important winter foods. If available, deer will 
make significant use of high-quality crops 
like wheat, oats, rye, alfalfa, clovers, or stand- 
ing corn. If such foods are not available, deer 
will eat almost anything. In some cases it costs 
the deer more in energy to find, eat, and di- 
gest low-quality food than they gain from 
doing so. Often in high-density herds, heavy 
browsing pressure during winter will cause a 
clear browse line to become apparent where 
deer have eaten all the vegetation below about 
five feet or more. One of the best examples of 
a browse line in Virginia can be seen in the Big 



Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park. 
At some point during winter, because of the 
cold weather and snow, most deer will begin 
to burn more calories than they are taking in 
and start to operate at an energy deficit. They 
will begin burning their fat reserves. It is not 
unusual now for deer to lose a significant 
amount of their body weight; to minimize 
weight loss and save energy, a deer's metabo- 
lism actually slows down. However, if they 
come into winter in poor condition and the 
season is long and hard with deep snow, star- 
vation from malnutrition is a very real possi- 
bility. 

In this winter race for survival, fawns are 
at a distinct disadvantage. In the fall, when 
adults are building up their fat reserves, fawns 
are storing fat but are also still growing. First- 
year biology and Bergmann's rule may be 
their undoing. This rule says that since they 
are small, fawns have a higher surface to vol- 
ume ratio and therefore have to spend more 



energy staying warm than large-bodied 
adults. Because they have less fat to fall back 
upon and a higher winter energy bill, fawns 
will be the most likely to die first. 

Winter starvation of deer in Virginia is 
fairly uncommon, but in 1993, following a 
near-total mast failure in fall 1 992 and a very 
big winter storm in mid-March, it occurred 
in the Alleghany Highlands. During this star- 
vation event, deer were literally eating the 
bark off trees. These very late winter storms 
are often hard on the animal because, as 
spring approaches, a deer's metabolism natu- 
rally begins to increase and fat reserves are de- 
pleted. 

The winter of 20 1 may also have result- 
ed in some mortality. After a poor mast crop 
in fall 2009 and more than a decade of very 
little snowfall, early 2010 saw much of the 
states western reaches covered in snow for up 
to two months — very unusual in Virginia. 
While snowfalls of just a couple of inches re- 
duce deer movements, depths of a foot or 
more severely restrict movements. Traveling 
in such conditions is very expensive from a 
deer's energy conservation perspective, and 
during strong snowstorms deer have been re- 
ported to remain bedded for one to two days 
at a time. Also, snow makes deer more vulner- 
able to predation. Crusted snow allows small, 
light, soft-footed predators like coyotes to run 
across the top of the surface, while the heav- 
ier-bounding deer breaks through. This crust- 
ed snow condition that favors predators was 
fairly common in western Virginia during 
winter 20 10. 

Other changes brought by winter: Doe 
family groups that were temporarily broken 
up by the breeding season have regrouped 
and settled down to a routine of feeding, rest- 
ing, and conserving energy. Even adult bucks 
become social again and readily accept the 
company of other males. They will typically 
begin dropping their antlers in late Decem- 
ber, and antler casting will continue through 
February. By March, nearly all bucks will have 
lost their antlers (occasionally, into late March 
or April). As a general rule, older, more domi- 
nant bucks tend to cast their antlers first, 
probably due to the stress of the rut. Healthy 
deer typically hold their antlers longer. 

As the days begin to warm, deer antici- 
pate spring's awakening — a season of plenty. 

Matt Knox is a deer project coordinator for the 
Department, serving south-central Virginia. 

JANUARY 2012 ♦ 31 




Most of this week was spent getting 
the house spic and span for my an- 
nual "After the Hunt Season Party." The ori- 
ental carpets have been cleaned; everyone's 
favorite dog bed has been laid out; and ice is 
in the porcelain water bowls with the flush- 
ing quail motif. I have just put out the hors 
d'oeuvres of raw carrots and buffalo beef 
jerky and thrown a couple of hickory logs on 
the fire burning in the library. 

All of this because tonight is "the" 
soiree, when all my hunting buddies get to- 
gether for some good food and refreshments 
and critique the just-finished hunting season 
(and our human hunting partners!). We 
used to meet at the beginning oi each hunt- 
ing season to plan how we would help our 
humans improve on their hunting perform- 
ance, but we soon learned that good inten- 
tions don't always produce good results. 
Most of us dogs agreed that after a great deal 
of effort on ourpait, followed by either hard- 
headedness or just plain ineptitude on their 
part, we dogs were just not hunting under 
champion humans! All of us hunting ca- 
nines had to resign ourselves to the reality 
that sometimes — no matter how much 
training you give a human — they are not 
going to be a champion in the field and so 
you just have to live and love what you have, 
no matter how poor or inconsistent they 
may be. 

Most of my guests are Labradors, 
which makes for a laid-back, relaxing af- 
fair — except for the year when one of the 
late-comers had obviously been into some 
catnip before showing up at the party and 
tossed out a couple of tennis balls. Everyone 
went berserk! I do have a few pointers, set- 
ters, and continental breeds over, just to get a 
general idea about how the quail population 
is doing. 



Gunner and Gauge, two yellow Labs, are 
the first to arrive and when I opened the door, 
I noticed a distinct odor. "What have you two 
boys been rolling in?" I inquired. 

"You like it?" they remarked, in unison. 
"It's a new scent we uncovered called 'Wet 
Dog and Pond Scum'! We are trying to get an 
edge on the competition, knowing that Mr. 
Alec Woolfolk's two chocolate females are 
coming tonight." 

"I hate to be the one to tip over your dog 
dishes, boys," I replied, "but you are forget- 
ting that those three sharp guys — Prize, 
Logan, and Shadow from Stuarts Draft — are 
coming tonight, and if looks aren't enough, 
you have got to contend with a couple of dap- 
per British Labs from Sperryville. And y'all 
know how the ladies love an English accent!" 
I don't like taking the wag out of some dog's 
tail, but I wanted everyone focused on why 
we meet each year. 

My chef, who prepares my meals twice a 
day, is not the most creative cook in the 
kitchen. Anything beyond opening a bag and 
pouring the contents into a bowl is pretty 
much beyond him. However, he did come up 
with the idea of adding some bits of cheese, a 
few sardines, and some leftover baked potato 
to our chicken and rice dish, which I figured 
would please everyone. 

After dinner we normally watch a video 
of some of our hunting trips, which are al- 
ways interesting — especially if one of us has 
gotten to do a little traveling and flush or 
point a different type of game bird. Invari- 
ably, there is some Chesapeake showing slides 
of himself swimming a mile or so in heavy 
seas, in a blizzard, in failing light, retrieving a 
wing-tipped goose. The only thing we Labs 
draw from these annual PowerPoints is that a 
Chesapeake is just plain crazy! Or goose 
hunters are just lousy shots. The pointing 



breeds moan about how hard quail are to find 
these days and how their human partners are 
getting older and slower. 

"That old preacher I hunt with," one 
English setter related last year, "is so slow get- 
ting to me that after I was on one point I had 
become really good friends with the quail I 
was pointing. So, I moved off point just when 
my companion was getting ready to shoot 
and headed somewhere else. It didn't make 
my hunting partner happy, but he seemed to 
move a little faster on the next point!" 

The highlight of the evening will be our 
guest speaker, Marc Puckett, a small game bi- 
ologist from the Department of Game and 
Inland Fisheries, making a presentation on 
how the new quail revitalization plan is going. 
This program assists property owners in man- 
aging a portion of their property they've set 
aside for quail habitat. Those in the program 
who have spoken with Of Jones are very 
pleased with the early results. If you, or your 
group, want to learn more about this impor- 
tant habitat program and how to bring back 
quail, you can contact Marc at Marc. Puckett 
@dgif. virginia.gov. 

It would certainly go a long way toward 
giving those pointing dogs less to whine 
about! 

Keep a leg up, 
Luke 

You can contact Luke and hunting partner Clarke C. 
Jones at www. clarkecjones. com. 




A Guide to the 
Frogs and Toads 
of Virginia is a 44- 
page field guide 
that covers all 27 
species of frogs 
| and toads that 
inhabit Virginia. 
Species accounts, descriptions, biology, 
behavior, habitats and conservation is- 
sues are all described and illustrated 
through more than 80 photographs 
and drawings. Included is a complimen- 
tary CD of The Calls of Virginia Frogs and 
Toads. Published by DGIF. 
Item #VW256 $10.00 

To Order visit www.HuntFishVA.com 
or call (804) 367-2569 



32 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 




Photo Tips 

by Lynda Richardson 



Another Year of Possibilities! 



As another year begins, I look forward 
to watching and photographing the 
seasons as they change throughout the com- 
monwealth. At this point in my life, I know 
what natural cycles and events are happening 
around here, and its this knowledge that can 
guide me to the best photographic opportu- 
nities for the year. 

In January, I know that the bald eagles 
are preparing their nests for another season of 
raising chicks. Some of them are already sit- 
ting on eggs. I know that on an unseasonably 
warm day in February, I might hear a spring 
peeper clearing his throat in anticipation of 
warmer days ahead. March brings osprey 
back to the bay and its tributaries in prepara- 
tion for the annual nesting season and the 
spring runs of shad, striper, and herring. Na- 
tive wildflowers begin to peek through the 
soil and salamanders tumble in courtship 
around various sinkholes, ponds, and wet 
areas throughout the state. In March, April, 
and May, migratory songbirds begin to arrive 
to set up shop in our forests, fields, and wet- 
lands. I could go on and on. 

But you see my point. By understand- 
ing the natural cycles of the plants and ani- 
mals that call Virginia their home, you can 
take advantage of this knowledge for plan- 
ning your photographic activities. A great 
place to look to begin the process is the De- 
partment's website. This site offers an enor- 
mous amount of information that includes 
specific species write-ups, locations for 
wildlife management areas, the Virginia 
Birding and Wildlife Trails, wildlife-related 
festivals, and even information on the Vir- 
ginia Master Naturalist Program, to name a 
few. This information will lead you to loca- 
tions and even introduce you to experts in 
the field with whom you can talk further. 
What a great resource! Check it out at: 
www.dgif.virginia.gov. 

And don't forget our favorite, Virginia 
Wildlife. This magazine is an extremely valu- 




Each year, around mid-November, I try to make a trip to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge 
to photograph migrating waterfowl and resident wildlife. Learning the natural cycles of nature 
can up the ante of your photography successes. ©Lynda Richardson. 



able resource on what is going on across the 
state. Whether you are interested in photo- 
graphing the breeding antics of spotted sala- 
manders, hunting dogs on point, fly fishing 
for trout, bald eagles along the James, or 
when and where to find bluebells or trillium 
blooming, Virginia Wildlife covers it! You do 
have your subscription up-to-date, right? 

This January, pause to think about and 
learn the natural cycles occurring throughout 
the year and begin to plan your photography 
adventures accordingly. Use the best re- 
sources you can find and be ready to capture 
those photographs of a lifetime! 

Welcome to 20 1 2 and Happy Shooting! 



Lynda Richardson's 
Photography Workshops 

All classes are held at Lewis Ginter Botanical 
Garden. Go to www.lewisginter.org to 
register and look under Adult & Family 
Education or call (804) 262-9887 x322 
(M-F, 9am -5pm). 

Photographing Winter Wonders on February 9, 
11, 16. Learn how to find exciting photographic 
opportunities in the winter landscape! 

Advanced Flash Clinic on March 15, 17, 22, 24, 
29. Know how to use your hot shoe flash? Learn to 
use more than one flash, and more! 

Making the Most of Your Digital Camera on 

April 18, 21, 25, 28, & May 2. Learn the various 
settings on your camera and how to make them 
work for you! 



JANUARY 2012 ♦ 33 




ining In 

by Ken and Maria Perrotte 
Sugar on Snows: Snow Goose Skillet 




Snow geese are regular visitors to the Delmarva area, arriv- 
ing in flocks numbering in the many thousands (see page 
1 0). Hunting them can be a challenge, not to mention a lot of 
work, given that it takes hundreds of decoys just to begin to get 
their attention. Compared to cousins such as Canada geese and 
white-fronted (specklebelly) geese, snow geese often get a bad 
rap in the culinary world. One common, disrespectful nick- 
name is "sky carp." 

Waterfowl diet is the critical driver in how those birds will 
taste. A fish-eating diving duck just doesn't taste as good as a 
mallard that has been dining in flooded cropland. Before snow 
geese arrive in our area, they typically eat a more eclectic diet and 
their taste reflects it. Once they nosh for a few weeks in corn 
stubble fields and other leftover croplands, though, they can be 
made plenty palate pleasing. 

We collected a few mid-February snow geese last year and 
pulled together this sweet and simple skillet dish. 

Ingredients 

Brine (salt/water mixture) 

2 snow goose breasts, skinned 

Va stick unsalted butter, divided 

2 small apples, peeled, cored and cut into '/4-inch slices 

(we like Granny Smith) 

'/3 cup dried fruits (we used a mixture of prunes, craisins, 

and cherries) 

!4 cup dark brown sugar 

Fresh ground pepper, to taste 

V4 teaspoon cinnamon 

Vi cup dry white wine 



Trim all visible silver skin from breasts and place in a glass or 
plastic bowl. Cover with water and stir in tablespoon of salt. 
Brine in refrigerator for 8 hours. Drain well and pat dry. 

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium- 
high heat. It is hard to beat a seasoned cast iron skillet for this 
type of dish. Add goose and a dash of fresh ground black pepper 
and brown on both sides, reducing heat if necessary to keep 
butter from burning. Remove goose breasts while rare and slice 
'A inch thick across the grain of the meat 

Add remaining butter and apples to the pan and cook for 
2 minutes. Add other dried fruits and cook another minute. 
The apples should be soft, but not mushy Add brown sugar 
and wine, stirring to ensure the sugar completely dissolves. 

Put the meat back into pan and cook until it is heated 
through. Medium-rare is best in terms of preserving flavor and 
tenderness. Definitely do not cook the breast meat past medi- 
um. The sauce should be slighdy reduced at this point. 

Serve immediately over rice. Serves 2 or 3. 

Canada goose or duck breasts could be used in place of 
snow goose. 

The dish is sweet. To help balance it, serve a side dish such 
as green beans sauteed with tomatoes and garlic, or pecans and 
almonds. A French onion soup makes a good starter course. 
Celebrate the end of the waterfowl seasons by pairing this dish 
with a Riesling or Sauterne wine. 




34 VIRGINIA WILDLIFE ♦ www.HuntFishVA.com 



Virginia Wildlife Magazine 



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The 2012 calendar features stunning 
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